Peter Rhodes on confronting the Russian mafia, lumping people into communities and Boris's attack of Biggles Syndrome
How will historians look back on Boris?
A QUICK-build bridge collapsed in Florida, killing six people. Councils all over the States are waiting to find out why. As one official in Wisconsin put it: "We want to.... see if any of the lessons learned would be applicable here." Bridges have been with us since the first cave-man laid a tree across a stream a million years ago. The problem is not discovering new lessons. It's remembering old ones.
DOWNING Street says it is determined to unearth dirty money stashed in London by Russian mafia types. Good luck with that. The problem is that when interviewing such people, the normal rules do not apply. You, the English investigator, wish to discuss Mr Splodovsky's financial affairs, including that unexplained £13 billion in his current account. Mr Splodovsky smiles broadly. He wants you to be aware that he knows where you live and where your children go to school, and he knows all about you and Miss Goodbody in Forward Planning. At some stage in your interview, Mr Splodovsky slips you £1,000 in a brown envelope and recommends a fortnight in Bognor, which suddenly strikes you as an excellent idea.
TALKING of the sinister power of the Kremlin, a few nights ago, after going at least 10 years without a power cut, we had two in less than an hour. Just sayin'....
YEARS from now historians will wonder how a British foreign secretary made the quantum leap from a few traces of nerve agent in Salisbury to personally blaming the Russian president. And then they will examine the footage more closely and notice that Boris Johnson was speaking at the Battle of Britain Bunker museum in Uxbridge, standing right in front of the most iconic warplane of all time. Boris may have been suffering from a sudden case of Biggles Syndrome, an irrational stirring of the blood caused by close exposure to a Supermarine Spitfire.
BIGGLES Syndrome can be serious. At about the same time as Boris was going off-script, I watched a 1944 DC-3 Dakota transport plane fly over in black-and-white D-Day livery. I had a sudden impulse to invade Normandy.
SOMETHING else that will puzzle future historians is our 21st century desire to lump people together into "communities." The loose partnership of gays and lesbians has morphed into a bewildering LGBTQIETCETC coalition which even its own members don't understand. I was struck a few days ago by a question posed online by a lesbian: "What on earth am I supposed to have in common with a drag queen?"
A FEW months ago I helped a friend's 12-year-old daughter with a few ukulele chords. That's the great thing about a uke. After half-an-hour you're a tutor and after a week you're a maestro. Anyway, the little girl has just performed in her first concert and her dad sent me a note of thanks including this: "You showed her not to worry about what anyone else thinks." Hmm. I like to think it's a compliment.